Lesson from the Trenches!
If there is any discrepancy about combining Comprehensible Input and Authentic Resources, let me settle it now: it can be done, and teachers do it all the time! In my Spanish level 1 class, we are currently doing a segment on Famous Afro-Latin@s. This week we focused on the first Afro-Colombian Beauty Vanessa Mendoza, who also did a stint in congress (Colombia)! A few years ago, I created a comprehensible level 1 resource highlighting her life and achievements. You can click here for that particular reading. The activities below are additional resources and you can download them now!
Input That Pays Off
So now that my students have had considerable input over the past few months, they better understand the nature of language. They pick up quicker on context clues, make inferences, etc. We had been learning and reviewing the Super 7 verbs (among other things) and doing story retells. These strategies were a big part of our Day of the Dead unit. I use the Super Seven list as the crux of short stories, and students slowing started using them in mini-class discussions. If this is your first time hearing of the Super 7, see the list that follows: es, tiene, va, quiere, hay, esta, le gusta.
Priming for Learning about Vanessa M.
Prior to watching the video below, I asked students to think about a time when someone judged them or thought less of their abilities for whatever reason. I, too, gave a range of reasons. I shared with them about when I played soccer, the men would not pass the ball, nor did they want me on their team. I ended up (by a miracle no less) playing in the championship game (ironically, they were short a player and had to let me play! I played well!). I wanted to make sure they could share any story, and not just one that would make them feel too vulnerable. We had quite the discussion! Some of the girls shared about how the boys treat them in gym. One kid shared how he was called an ethnic slur the year before. And others shared a variety of stories that would help us to understand Vanessa’s testinony in the video (see the activity for the written summary of what she says).
We previewed the questions on this activity sheet (scroll down to #12 Vanessa Mendoza Video Questions) to make sure we understood the words.
I had them listen to the first minute of the video and circle several words. You can probably add to that word bank. However, the goal was not to actually listen to the video, but rather pay close attention to the text features on the screen and the actions performed by the people. For example, one of the questions posed is: Las personas adoran a Vanessa Mendoza. Students choose “Cierto” because they witnesses her community embrace her once she won.
After watching the video, I had them read the short text I created. This text is based on some of her testimony regarding the obstacles she faced. I asked them questions in Spanish, and they responded based on the text. They were able to pinpoint that due to her beauty, gender, racial identity, and community, members in congress did not take her seriously. They made a ton of connections. Based on that, students reasoned she was ambitious, and that she was a fighter for her community. This is really setting the stage for our lessons next week (on Vanessa), and next month’s lesson on Epsy Campbell Barr!
We then had an amazing discussion about Vanessa’s personality and drive. They recycled words from this Quizlet list and shared how Vanessa was estudiosa, ambiciosa, and valiente. We did a similiar task a few days prior. You can access that free activity here: Famous Afro-Latin@s (#20 on the list of resources).
Part 2: Updated!
Below, you can download the activity we worked on this week. Essentially, students had to apply what they’ve learned about Vanessa and discuss her physical appearance, personality, and things she likes to do. The text I created based on the video (above) did not explicitly state what she liked, so we explored how to make inferences from what we learned about her. Students sample sentences are as follows:
Vanessa es valiente. A Vanessa le gusta debatir (we learned she is studying law).
A Vanessa le gusta ayudar -we learned she helped her community and this is the primary reason why she wants to become a lawyer- see video and text above)
How can this activity be improved? I was thinking of having students write their sentences about Vanessa, and then adding a text reference to support it. This will help with overall comprehension and language structure. Feel free to use the activity below. Next week, we will do a mini-comparison. This mini-unit has me so excited!!!
Part 3: Vanessa y yo (next week, I will post this activity. We didn’t get to it this week).
I am also cooking up a cultural comparison so my level 1 students can have more experience using comparisons.
This was such a great lesson. Next week, they will compare their lives to hers. I literally can’t wait!
I am currently a Spanish Teacher in Chicago, IL. I have 16 years of cumulative experience as an International Baccalaureate middle school teacher, high school teacher, and adjunct instructor. I hold a Master’s in Latin American Literature and Cultures coupled with a Master’s in Educational Leadership. These dual degrees have afforded me a vantage point from both ends of the educational spectrum: instruction and evaluation. I have been sharing my unique perspective on pedagogy and language acquisition for over ten years at national, regional, and state conferences. I am also an accomplished author! I have authored several compelling comprehensible novels that allow students to solidify their language skills while experiencing a wide range of different cultures. Check out my resources below. Thanks for stopping by!
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